Creating Value with Plugins

As many of you know, Q-SYS made a big splash at this year’s InfoComm. I do not think there was a moment I was at the booth when it was not packed with show attendees. What were these attendees there to see? Many were there to view the integration of third-party products within our control system. We even had a dedicated space to not just look at products, but to see them in action, seamlessly.

So, how did we get these products to “talk” to one another? One way is with the use of Q-SYS plugins. And what is a plugin, you ask? In the simplest of definitions, it is the “glue” that allows a manufacturer’s product to work with a control system. A plugin simplifies integration so that a product can be more easily implemented into a space. Let me explain.

Plugins are software or written code which uses the Application Programming Interface (API) of a device to connect with a control system. For those of you still confused, this is how I explain it to my friends and family – “Back in the day” when you bought a new printer and you wanted it to “link” to your computer the first thing you did was download a driver. That driver is being used much like a plugin. In fact, some control system platforms call this software component a driver or in some cases a module. Here at Q-SYS, we call them plugins. What sets plugins apart from a driver or module is that plugins have a user interface with controls that can be dragged and dropped onto a user control interface. No programming required! Not only are we giving you the functions that you need to control the device, but we are making it easy for you to integrate those controls on a touch panel and/or automate multiple devices with a simple graphical interface.

You now know what a plugin is. Now we will talk about why they are so important to expanding the Q-SYS Ecosystem. Plugins make third-party device integration easier. During the design of a Q-SYS based project, integrators will want to incorporate solution components for which Q-SYS plugins exist. In doing so, the integrator can deliver maximum automation, control and system flexibility for the end user, while minimizing complexity, cost, and time to deployment. Simply put, if a plugin is not available for a third-party device/service, an integrator or end user will look for alternatives that deliver ease of implementation into their project. Q-SYS plugins enable an elevated customer experience while potentially cutting the time and cost of deployment by days or weeks.

For Q-SYS to be effective in providing a solution that does not depend on complex programming, we must have a robust library of plugins to offer. Hence the creation of our Q-SYS Technology Partner Program. This program formalizes our approach with technology manufacturers who are interested in developing plugins that will deliver value to our mutual customers. And how do these plugins get made for Q-SYS, you ask? Some of the work is being completed internally by our team. We also rely on the help of third-party developers to get this done. Such development work requires skilled programmers who are proficient in Lua, understand how to interpret an API, and have experience with Q-SYS and our line of control systems. This is where I come in.

I was added to the Alliance and Ecosystem team to help manage the relationships with our third-party developers. The goal is to continue the development of plugins to increase the capabilities of the Q-SYS Ecosystem. Our developer partners have access to the Q-SYS Communities for Developers forum which allows them to learn more about what is happening with Q-SYS developers, share/like content, and ask questions about development. This valued relationship with our development partners is needed in order to continue providing award-winning end-user solutions in the market that leverage the use of plugins.

Ready to learn more? Take a look at the library of Q-SYS endorsed plugins in Asset Manager within Q-SYS Designer Software and stay up to date with the latest plugin releases in Q-SYS Communities for Developers.